Instagram is Built To Show You More Thirst Traps Than Other Posts – Study

Image courtesy Reuters

Ever sat down to look through Instagram and just when your parent or kid passes by, a half-naked girl or man pops up? You’ll be glad to know that’s not your fault. According to a new study, the algorithm makes photos showing skin more likely to appear.


The report says that while Instagram claims that the newsfeed is organized according to what a given user “cares about most”, the company’s patent explains that it could actually be ranked according to what it thinks all users care about.

This discovery was made by analyzing getting a browser add-on and testing Instagram newsfeeds, talking to content creators, and studying patents.

The add-on would then record which posts appear at the top of their newsfeeds. Of the 2,400 photos that the content creators posted, 362 (21%) showed bare-chested men or women in bikinis or underwear. They also noted that in the volunteers’ newsfeeds, posts with semi-nude pictures made up 30% of the posts shown from the accounts.

Pictures of scantily-clad women were 54% more likely to appear in their newsfeeds. Posts with bare-chested men were 28% more likely to be shown. This pales in contrast to posts showing pictures of food or landscapes. This was 60% less likely to pop up in their feeds.

Nicolas Kayser-Bril, a reporter at AlgorithmWatch, has a few thoughts on what he thinks might be the cause of these search results

A minority of Instagram users see the platform as a free source of soft porn images. Their behavior is probably picked up by ML systems, amplified, and pictures of nudity are pushed for all users.

Following this trend, the algorithm could push— particularly women — into posting revealing photos to attract more viewers. This will then shape the worldview of many of the Instagram users today.


However, the same thing happens on TikTok but in a different way. The company reportedly asked moderators to shadow-ban content based on specific criteria. This included everything from “obese” people to “too thin”. One of the reasons for this says,

“…if the character’s appearance or the shooting environment is not good, the video will be much less attractive, not worth to be recommended to new users.”

Another reason they state is that this helps prevent bullying within the app. But then, who’s to say who is pretty or not? Nudity is “not allowed” on the service, but it somehow favours posts that show skin.

It’s become a norm for most people to like pictures of women or men with fewer clothes on. Less and less professional and time staking content gets the recognition it requires on Facebook. A graduation photo will get significantly fewer likes than an ‘I’m going for swimming in my new bikini’ picture.

If this is the case then we are subjecting users to posting more content without clothes on. So, whose fault is that? What do you think?

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